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Colo. suspect was studying neuroscience

James Eagen Holmes had wanted to be a neuroscientist. He was in a graduate program in neurosciences at the Denver campus of the University of Colorado. This spring, Holmes took a course titled "Biological Basis of Psychiatric and Neurological Disorders."

But the 24-year-old performed poorly on his comprehensive tests this spring. He was in serious academic trouble, according to a faculty member who spoke on condition of anonymity. His solution was to quit. The school said Friday that Holmes was in the process of withdrawing from the program.

Holmes will appear in court Monday and will be formally charged later in the week with the attack on the Aurora, Colo., movie theater, authorities said. Police would not discuss any motive for the massacre.

Holmes went to Westview High School in the upscale San Diego suburb of Torrey Highlands, where his parents, Robert and Arlene Holmes, moved in 2005. In addition to playing soccer at Westview, he ran cross country.

Tall and dark-haired, he stared clear-eyed at the camera in a 2004 high school yearbook snapshot, wearing a white junior varsity soccer uniform -- No. 16.

He attended the University of California at Riverside, east of Los Angeles, and earned a degree in neuroscience, graduating in 2010.

Neighbors told The Associated Press that the family belonged to a Presbyterian church and hosted a Christmas party for residents. Many families choose the San Diego neighborhood because it is part of the well-regarded Poway Unified School District, one of the best in California.

In the age of widespread social media, no trace of Holmes could be found on Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter or anywhere on the Web. Either he never engaged or he scrubbed his trail.

A longtime neighbor in San Diego, where Holmes grew up, remembers only a "shy guy . . . a loner" from a churchgoing family.

The bookish demeanor concealed an unspooling life. Holmes struggled to find work after graduating with highest honors from UC-Riverside, said the neighbor, retired electrical engineer Tom Mai.

Friday morning, police escorted the suspect's father, a manager of a software company, from his San Diego home. The mother, a nurse, stayed inside. The suspect also has a younger sister.

"This is a lovely family," said one woman who is a neighbor of the Holmeses in San Diego and who asked not to be named. "There are many lovely things to say about them. I'm just heartbroken."

A spokeswoman for the San Diego Police Department handed out a statement on behalf of the Holmes family. "The Holmes family is very upset about all of this. It is a tragic event and it has taken everyone by surprise," the spokeswoman said, adding that the family is "fully cooperating" with investigators.

At the University of Colorado-Denver, a neuroscience faculty member, who declined to be identified because of privacy concerns, described Holmes as "very quiet, strangely quiet in class," and said he seemed "socially off."

Although Holmes got weak scores on the comprehensive exams last semester, the educator said, the school's staff wasn't going to toss him out. Instead, they planned to give him remedial instruction and perhaps put him on academic probation.

There have been no indications so far that Holmes had any run-ins with the law before Friday. San Diego Superior Court spokeswoman Karen Dalton told the AP there were no records found under his name, not even for a traffic ticket.

This story was compiled from The Washington Post and The Associated Press reports.

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